Republicans shamefully let Trump leave nation weak against Russia

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In the face of President Trump’s lapdog performance with Vladimir Putin, Republicans in Congress have assumed the usual posture: duck and cover. They duck responsibility for Trump’s behavior, and cover themselves by tweeting their opposition to his statements.

Then they engage in a collective shrugging of shoulders, arguing that there’s not much more they can do. After all, they claim, they’ve held multiple hearings into Russia’s meddling in our election, slapped sanctions on Moscow over Trump’s opposition, affirmed that Russians did try to influence our election, and even criticized the president.

{mosads}Not much more you can do, my dear Republicans? Well, how about doing what you’d do if President Obama had behaved like Trump. Imagine Obama, suspected of colluding with Russia, meeting privately with Putin, then taking the world stage as the groveler-in-chief to pooh pooh his own senior officials, the CIA director, and a grand jury. This is what they’d do if the shoe was on the other foot, specifically the left one.

A) They’d introduce articles of impeachment and see what reaction it gets.

B) They’d strengthen Russian sanctions that Congress approved last year.

C) They’d use their subpoena power to bring in several top administration officials to investigate the president’s Kremlin coddling.

D) They’d introduce a resolution demanding that Obama seek the extradition of a dozen Russian nationals indicted by special counsel Robert Mueller for election interference. Then they’d force Democrats to vote on it, wedging them between their political base and swing voters.

E) All of the above.

But in the case of a president whose base they need and crave in a bumpy election, Republicans are most likely to choose “None of the above.” In fact, they will continue to call Mueller’s investigation a witch hunt. They will keep discrediting and trying to shame professionals in the law enforcement, counterterrorism and intelligence communities.

House Republicans will continue to cling to a president who may drive our national security off a cliff or into a Kremlin parking garage. They will duck and cover, hoping that this frigid Russian wind will die down and that it will be replaced by another tweet, another cult-like rally, or perhaps another less dangerous stumble on the world stage.

What should Democrats do on the verge of a congressional majority in four months? There are a lot of districts where the outrage over Putin’s behavior and Trump’s summit with the Russian don’t come close to the anxiety over paychecks. If people aren’t mentioning it in local supermarkets and coffee shops, don’t message it in those places.

Still, it does create a tactical campaign opportunity. There’s a significant national security gap in the polls between Democrats and Republicans. The last time it narrowed was in 2006, and Democrats won the majority. While Democrats shouldn’t make this the sole message of their campaigns in districts across the board, they can use it as a backdrop to raise national security doubts: How can turning against trusted allies and embracing untrustworthy adversaries keep us safe?

Meanwhile, Republicans will continue their obsequiousness to Trump, who will continue his servility to Putin, leaving America exposed.

Steve Israel represented New York in Congress for 16 years. He served as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011 to 2015. He is a novelist and author of the new book, “Big Guns,” a satire of the gun lobby. You can follow him on Twitter @RepSteveIsrael.

Tags America Congress Democrats Donald Trump Election Global Affairs Government National security Republicans Robert Mueller Russia Steve Israel voters

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